N.Y. governor signs law protecting LGBT students

New York Gov. David Paterson signed a bill Sept. 7 protecting students in
New York public schools from bias-based bullying and discrimination.

He signed the legislation in a ceremony at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and
Transgender Community Center in New York City.

“The Dignity for All Students Act will provide important new safeguards to
ensure that schools are places where students can concentrate on learning
and personal growth, not on avoiding taunting or violence,” said Ross
Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda.

The new law targets harassment based on race, ethnicity, religion,
disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. It
requires teacher training on discouraging bias-based harassment, inclusion
in coursework of discrimination and harassment awareness, and reporting of
bias incidents to the state Education Department.

The law marks the first time New York state has legislated explicit
protections for transgender people.

A 2007 study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network found that
33 percent of LGBT students skip school in any given month because they
fear for their safety, compared with only 4.5 percent of the general
student population.

“For some young people, going to school is tantamount to a daily dose of
torture,” commented National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director
Rea Carey. “In too many cases, harassment, taunting and abuse are allowed
to go on unabated in our nation’s schools. We have repeatedly seen the
tragic consequences of this pervasive problem: Young people are left
emotionally damaged, physically hurt, or feel they have no other option
than to take their own lives out of hopelessness and despair. Youth who
are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender — or simply perceived to be —
are often the targets of this abuse. Today, New York said enough is

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted similar laws to
protect gay/lesbian and, in some cases, transgender students.

By Rex Wockner


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